Voting for the 2023 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is now open!
There are a few approaches to take when selecting your fan XI ballot. Maybe you're all about big-name draws and star power. Perhaps you like the stats deep-cuts and the analytics darlings. The good ol' eye test works, too.
In the spirit of voting, here's who I submitted to represent the MLS All-Stars when English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal come to D.C. United's Audi Field on July 19. It mimics the formation and positions ballots can be submitted through – goalkeeper, right back, center back, left back, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and forward/winger.
Who will make the cut?
The former Swiss international and Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper has been immense for the MLS newcomers, on the same level as CITY SC midfielder Eduard Löwen (who was one of the last cuts from my ballot).
Full transparency: I went back and forth about 20 times while trying to pick a left back. DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution) or John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls) as first-time MLS All-Stars? Kai Wagner (Philadelphia Union) or Diego Palacios (LAFC) repeating after nods in 2022? There's no shortage of quality at the position in MLS.
João Paulo is one of the most complete two-way midfielders in MLS, making him an easy pick for the defensive midfielder spot. Plus, the No. 6 role in All-Star Games has more to do with moving the ball forward than putting fires out.
We should also note: The Brazilian is back to his top-end self after missing most of the Seattle Sounders' 2022 season with a torn ACL.
Is the All-Star Game potentially one of Almada's last acts in MLS? The Argentine World Cup winner could set an MLS outbound transfer record this summer, surpassing the $27 million Atlanta reportedly received for Miguel Almiron in early 2019 when he moved to Newcastle United.
Almada, with 6g/8a in 13 league games, has been phenomenal in his second MLS season after joining the Five Stripes last year for a reported league-record $16 million transfer fee from Vélez Sarsfield.
I mean, this one's a no-brainer. Mukhtar leads MLS in goal contributions (16) behind 9g/7a in 15 games. He's the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP for a reason.
I pity any defender who has Bouanga charging at them in the open field or sizing up a 1-on-1 situation. That must be terrifying.
The DP forward has a league-leading 10 goals for the Golden Boot presented by Audi mantle, plus is the difference-maker behind LAFC's run to the Concacaf Champions League final.
There's nobody better in the air in MLS, full stop. Benteke has 7g/1a in 14 games this year, and it'd be fitting if the Premier League veteran is leading the line when Arsenal come to Audi Field, home of his D.C. United.
Espinoza, the driving force behind San Jose's strong start to the 2023 season, is a legit MVP candidate. The Argentine winger's got 8g/3a in 14 games, finally gaining some national traction for his consistency and game-changing presence with the Earthquakes.